Creating bags that critique consumer culture, Milan-based design label Camera60Studio are making sustainable strides into the luxury streetwear niche of the industry. Take a quick glance at their Instagram and you’ll initially see the familiar silhouette of Fendi’s baguette bag made strange by its composition from a paper McDonald’s bag: a commonly found piece of litter. Aiming to inspire creativity in the face of wasteful consumption culture, the studio speak to their material processes, influences, and personal values.
For those who are less familiar with your work, can you tell us a bit about the ethos behind your brand and what inspired you to start up a fashion label centred around upcycling?
This project started a couple of years ago. It was all about experimentation, making bags from unusual materials. We made a capsule collection using grocery shopping bags – our intention was to reuse plastic in a different way. On the other hand, we wanted to bring craftsmanship leather goods details into everyday objects. We’re fascinated by all the processes of transformations and the artisanal aspect is very important to us.
During the first lockdown in March 2020, we felt it was time to share our ideas. We started making bags with all the available materials at home and posted them on our Instagram.
Your focus on sustainability and minimising waste is really fantastic to see in an industry saturated with quickie trends and the fallout from this. What does sustainability mean to you, and how else does it translate into your creative practice?
Sustainability for us means transformation and creativity – only by changing our point of view, we can transform something useless into a new meaningful object.
We’d like to inspire people to create rather than waste – we shared on our Instagram page some tutorials to call our followers to action during the last months. The response was absolutely amazing – people had fun making bags and at the same time they could stop and think about the product in a different and more creative way. It was a beautiful opportunity to connect with people and share our values.
Camera60 Studio Metalmagazine 3.jpg
What is the creative process behind deciding upon materials? How do you obtain the materials you use in your creations?
All the materials we transform into bags are real waste. It’s part of our everyday life. Creating connections between everyday objects and leather goods shapes is something we do very instinctively. We exchange our ideas, we match them, it’s a continuous work in progress. Everything could inspire us, every gesture from everyday life – or the pleasure to celebrate an icon bag we love.
But this is only the very first part! Then we start thinking about the structure and reinforcements and so on – once we’ve decided the mood, then we need to fix it technically.
Your craftmanship is really impeccable, are these materials more difficult to work with than traditional leathers?
Thank you! In the beginning, it was quite difficult because we were not used to making bags with plastic or paper. We made some tests to understand the best reinforcements and we tried to stitch some pieces of different materials. We need to be very flexible with the process and set up the volumes before creating the definitive bag.
The first bag we made was the Balenciaga Bazar tote from cutting out the Tesco shopping bags. At that time we were pushed by curiosity – what else can we do with our technique? And focused on reusing. So we started to make test, cutting and pasting all these shopping bags – but our intention was also put into this project our entire craftsmanship experience and technique. So, at the end, we decided to try working with all these materials exactly as we did with leather!
Currently on your Instagram, we can see the logos and branding of McDonald's, Amazon, Ikea, and Nike. I assume this is a very deliberate choice to connect with the damaging consumer culture you negate through upcycling, however, can you expand upon this? Is it fair to say there are influences of Pop Art in this regard?
Absolutely! Our intention was creating like a crash between iconic and popular things – the challenge was mixing and matching something from everyday life and the iconic fashion world and explore the possibility to switch them.
The other aspect of our work is the celebration of the iconic bags we love. We match waste materials and luxury leather details and technique and the result is the true essence of the bag as a symbol. But it’s also something emotional and instinctual, and it was especially during the pandemic, at the beginning of the lockdown.
One of the first bags we posted was the Falabella tote by Stella McCartney. We made it reusing the biscuits packaging of a famous Italian brand – the biscuits are called Abbracci (in English it means 'hugs'). It was a message to all our friends and the people we love in that scary strange moment when we couldn’t be physically close to each other.
Camera60 Studio Metalmagazine 1.jpg
You utilise designer shapes like the Dior saddle bag and the Prada nylon mini, the result is cutting-edge streetwear. Is there a reason you draw on the silhouettes of fashion houses in your work, aside from this fresh reinvention?
As I said before, our intention was to make a crash. The Dior Saddle Bag and Prada nylon mini bag, like others of course – these bags are absolutely iconic and their shapes are recognisable also if you make it from a shoe or biscuits box! That’s the focus, the shape is the essence, they are symbols – you could make the Saddle from cereal boxes or whatever: Saddle remains Saddle, and when you look at it, you always think: “This is Dior.”
It’s no secret that the pandemic has unfortunately seen a resurgence of single-use plastics and streets littered with surgical masks. Do you plan on materially engaging with this in the future?
Many people have already done it and some of them are very powerful but, honestly, I don’t know if we’re going to do this in the future.
Despite this, many of us are attempting to reduce our consumption habits. Do you have any favourite designers whose ethics align with your own, or who inspire your practice?
At this moment, many fashion luxury brands are embracing upcycle initiatives and promoting a more sustainable effort – the pandemic has represented a sort of watershed. Something has changed very deeply, this tragic moment gave us the chance to rethink our habits.
We now have the occasion to transform something very bad into an opportunity.
Almost all the major brands are now strongly engaged in all this: Prada's Renylon project, Hermès leather made from mushrooms, Gucci's sustainability program and Loewe Surplus Project – they are just examples of a widespread trend. It’s a beginning, we all know that this process of transformation will take many years to be completed.
Camera60 Studio Metalmagazine 7.jpg
Moreover, do you have any advice for how we as individuals can create more ethical shopping habits?
Our consumption habits define our future – if we take care of our choices, we act and decide consciously what will happen in our lives. People are becoming more and more sensitive about this in fashion, wearing vintage and second-hand clothes have become a trend, especially during this last year.
Consumers are interested in values as quality and durability more than in the past and brands need to make an effort to become more sustainable. Materials research, technical innovation, and transparent processes – exploitation of workers is also an important sustainability issue – are the tools to achieve the goal. As consumers, we need to continue to ask all this to the market and become more conscious of our potential to be part of this change.
Finally, can you allude to any upcoming projects or plans you have for 2021? What message do you want your brand to embody this coming year?
We’d like to take a step forward – what we did until now was provocative and ironic. It gets the attention on some issues that are very relevant at this moment. This project has given us the opportunity to share our story with people, also making some speeches with Fashion Design students in different countries. It would be interesting to call people to action and explore new possibilities.
Camera60 Studio Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Camera60 Studio Metalmagazine 11.jpg
Camera60 Studio Metalmagazine 10.jpg